Daily Archives: November 11, 2012

Poll update: Crimson Tide falls to fourth in BCS standings

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Alabama fell to fourth in the Bowl Championship Series standings Sunday night.

The three unbeaten teams held the top three spots: No. 1 Kansas State, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Notre Dame. Once-beaten Georgia is fifth.

For the Crimson Tide to make the BCS National Championship Game for the third time in four years, it will need some help from the teams that play the top three squads. Kansas State must play at Baylor and Texas at home. Oregon has Stanford at home, a road game at Oregon State and the Pac-12 Championship game. Notre Dame hosts Wake Forest and visits Southern California.

In the “human” polls, the Associated Press, Harris and USA Today coaches rankings have the same top three: No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 3 Notre Dame. AP and Harris have Alabama fourth and Georgia is fifth. The coaches poll has Georgia fourth and Alabama fifth.

The Harris and coaches rankings each make up one-third of the BCS formula. The remaining third is a combination of six computer rankings, and Alabama is fifth with them.

Unlike the coaches and Harris polls, the AP releases its ballots publicly, which means we can see who dropped Alabama how far. One voter, Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, had Alabama third. Five voters had Alabama seventh, including Mark McCarter of al.com.

Two listed the Crimson Tide at No. 8: Ferd Lewis of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Kirk Bohls of the Austin (Texas) American Statesman. Both had Oregon at No. 1 and Texas A&M at No. 7.

Until this week, the Crimson Tide had received all the first-place votes in The AP poll five of the previous six weeks. The AP rankings do not count toward the BCS rankings, but AP has awarded a national championship since 1936 and still is considered a major poll.

In addition, the Crimson Tide also remained No. 1 for 10 straight weeks. That’s a school record for the longest stretch in school history.

Click here for the complete AP, Harris and coaches rankings. The BCS standings will be inserted later this evening.

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Lacey leads as Tide beats West Alabama in hoops

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey had 23 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals as Alabama defeated West Alabama 80-49 at home Sunday afternoon.

This game was Alabama’s second in the 2K Sports Classic, which continues Thursday when the Tide faces Oregon State in the tournament semifinals in New York.

Also for Alabama, Rodney Cooper added 16 points and seven rebounds, while Trevor Releford had 14 points and three assists.

Opening comment from Anthony Grant’s postgame news conference: “This was certainly, for us, turning the field early and for our guys to come out after a very emotional win on Friday and bounce back today, I thought we responded pretty well. In the first half, I thought again we had too many turnovers. They were able to get on the board against us quite a bit and we had to find our way. Again, in the second half I thought our intensity really picked up and I thought we did a much better job of taking care of the basketball and finding each other. In the second half we had 11 assists and four turnovers. Those are areas we just have to get better in. We’ve got to continue to understand what allows us to win and be successful. We’ve got to be able to take care of the basketball. We’ve got to rebound the basketball.”

Some thoughts from me:

Devonta Pollard, the celebrated 6-foot-8 freshman forward, looked better than he did in Friday night’s opener against South Dakota State. He looked more comfortable and had nine points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.

–Lacey made all five of his 3-pointers, and if he can find the consistency he lacked a season ago as a first-year player, that’s awfully good news for Alabama.

Carl Engstrom, the 7-foot-1 center, looked active and more confident than 7-0 Moussa Gueye. Engstrom had four points and a block.

–Point guard Trevor Releford didn’t start again, although he entered the game with 15:09 to play in the first half. Grant won’t say how long this will continue and seemed a little testy when asked about bringing Releford off the bench.

–Alabama wore white uniforms with “Alabama” on the front. West Alabama wore red with “West” on the front and “Alabama” on the back. That had the potential to be a little confusing for the crowd, which was listed at 10,443 but couldn’t have been more than 4,000 actual people in seats.

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Tide in the NFL: Saints call on Mark Ingram for season-high carries

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (28) tries to break the tackle of Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Mike Peterson. (AP photo by Bill Haber)

Former Alabama running back Mark Ingram carried the ball 16 times in New Orleans’ 31-27 win over Atlanta, which is the second most in his two-year career and most of the season.

He gained 67 yards, which is his third highest total of his career and highest of the season. His career high for yardage came against Indianapolis in 2011 when he had 91.

Also for New Orleans, safety Roman Harper had nine tackles and two passes defended.

Atlanta Falcons guard Mike Johnson (79) catches a touchdown pass as New Orleans Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) covers. (AP photo by Bill Feig)

For the Falcons, former Alabama offensive lineman Mike Johnson caught a 1-yard touchdown pass. He was at the end of the line and an eligible receiver.

Ex-Tide receiver Julio Jones caught four passes for 75 yards. He missed most of the first half with a leg injury. He had two catches for 14 yards before the injury and two receptions for 61 yards afterward.

Other performances of former Alabama players in the NFL on Sunday:

–Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson intercepted a pass, defended two passes and made three tackles in a 13-6 win over the Chicago Bears. Before the season, he was fighting for his starting job, and now he ranks third in the NFL with four interceptions.

–New England beat Buffalo 37-31 as Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower had four tackles. For Buffalo, defensive lineman Marcel Dareus had five tackles, two passes defended and half a sack.

–As Tampa Bay beat San Diego 34-24, Bucs safety Mark Barron had six tackles and one pass defended. For the Chargers, fullback Le’Ron McClain had two carries for 5 yards, and linebacker Jarret Johnson made four tackles.

–Linebacker Courtney Upshaw had four tackles as Baltimore pounded Oakland 55-20. He added one pass defended and a tackle for loss when he brought down Raiders fullback Marcel Reece 2 yards behind the line. Ravens teammate Terrence Cody, a nose tackle, added three tackles. For Oakland, linebacker Rolando McClain had two tackles.

–Safety Charlie Peprah had a tackle and defended a pass in the Dallas Cowboys’ 38-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. For Philadelphia, linebacker DeMeco Ryans had eight tackles, including two for loss.

–Defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry turned in a big day as Cincinnati beat the New York Giants 31-13. He had three tackles, and his biggest came in the fourth quarter when he sacked Eli Manning, who fumbled. Gilberry recovered the ball, too. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick played but didn’t record any statistics.

–Teams on a bye week include Cleveland (running back Trent Richardson) and Arizona (safety Rashad Johnson). The Monday night game features Kansas City (cornerback Javier Arenas) and Pittsburgh.

Note: We are covering Alabama basketball this afternoon, but will get this updated with the performances of other ex-Tide players later this evening.

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How Alabama stacks up in the NCAA statistical rankings

Alabama’s defense brings down Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Saturday. (Copyright photo by Gary Cosby Jr. of The Decatur Daily)

Even after Saturday’s 29-24 loss to Texas A&M, Alabama still ranks first nationally in scoring defense, allowing 11.1 points a game.

The Tide still is second in total defense, while Florida State is first. In rush defense, Alabama is third, and in pass defense, the Tide ranks ninth.

Even though Alabama produced three turnovers against Texas A&M and didn’t force any, the Tide still is No. 8 nationally in turnover margin.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron ranks seventh in passing efficiency. Cody Mandell is 14th in punting.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is second nationally in total offense, trailing Baylor’s Nick Florence. He is 31st in rushing and 25th in passing efficiency.

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Opinion: On this night, Alabama didn’t have enough gas in the tank

Despite having two of the best run blockers in the country in Chance Warmack (above) and D.J. Fluker, Alabama failed to use the run at critical times against Texas A&M. (AP photo by Dave Martin)

This is my column that ran in today’s print editions:

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Texas A&M torpedoed Alabama’s national championship hopes Saturday, but they were gone before the Aggies ever came to Tuscaloosa.

While the 29-24 loss to Texas A&M probably is the broom that swept the Crimson Tide out of the national picture, tired Alabama left its edge on the Tiger Stadium turf in Baton Rouge seven days earlier.

If you want to figure out how the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide team could lose Saturday when it was favored to win by double-digits, look there.

Alabama rallied and survived a huge game at LSU, and it marked the third week of an intense, emotional stretch that included a home win over a ranked Mississippi State team and a rivalry game at Tennessee.

This past week, practice went OK but not great. The Tide gave an OK effort, but not an effort with an edge.

In a moment of blunt honesty afterward, Nick Saban said he was concerned at the beginning of the week because the Tide looked “out of gas.” Alabama center Barrett Jones said it’s like they forgot how they became No. 1 in the first place: “It’s not that we were better; it’s because we worked harder and practiced harder.”

Texas A&M had the edge. Every great team such as Alabama meets an opponent like that sooner or later — they aren’t as good, but for one particular day, they have enough focus and drive.

Legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant used to tell his players they needed to remind opposing teams immediately whey they had won a national championship, but on Saturday, Saban’s Tide did everything but that by falling behind 20-0.

This one looked as if everyone had fallen out of sync. That includes the coaches. Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier called a strange game. He underused the running game, which seemed to work so well when Eddie Lacy had the ball.

That even extends to the final play, when Alabama had fourth-and-goal. The Tide ran a quick pass to the right, in which a receiver would pick off a defensive back, leaving an opening for a teammate. The pick wasn’t clean, and the throw got intercepted.

Bad play-call or sloppy effort? Maybe Alabama should’ve run the ball? You can make an argument either way.

Afterward, Saban — again in honesty mode — said whenever a play doesn’t work, he usually says they should’ve run something different.

Also, once again, Alabama’s offense struggled after halftime. After slicing the A&M lead to 20-14, the Tide didn’t get another touchdown until 6:09 remained in the game. It’s a common theme this year — third-quarter struggles. The Tide doesn’t come out of the locker room offering anything new.

Defensively, Alabama started slow, too. Again, at times the Tide defense dominated, but at others, it appeared as if it was simply holding on — well, that and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is good. Very good. He’s like Denard Robinson or Michael Vick, but with a much more accurate arm.

To top it all off, Alabama lost its last chance to win through the tired sloppiness that invaded the Tide’s day.

Saban had warned his players all week Texas A&M liked to run a “hard count” to try to trick the defense into jumping offsides. He warned the players again as the Aggies lined up to punt, which would’ve given Alabama the ball back with decent field position and about 40 seconds to work with.

So what did Alabama do when Texas A&M ran a hard count on the punt?

Yes, the Tide jumped offsides. A sloppy mistake to pile on a day full of them.

It’s hard to defend the mountain top every week. Alabama just couldn’t do it one more time.

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Alabama’s Saban: There still is at least one championship we can win

Eddie Lacy breaks through a tackle for yardage Saturday against Texas A&M. (Copyright photo by Gary Cosby Jr. of The Decatur Daily)

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — After Saturday’s shocking 29-24 loss to Texas A&M at home Saturday, Alabama football coach Nick Saban abandoned one of his most important rules.

He always tells his players they have 24 hours to enjoy a win or absorb a loss, and after that, they need to look ahead. Minutes after his previously unbeaten, No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide lost to a gritty Texas A&M squad making its first trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium, Saban already was telling his players to look to the future.

Even though this loss might have sunk Alabama’s hopes of repeating as national champions, it hasn’t ruined a shot at conference title. A win over Auburn in two weeks will secure the Western Division’s berth in the SEC Championship Game, and that’s what Saban is selling his players.

“This team still has an opportunity to win the West, go to the SEC Championship game and have a chance to win the championship game,” Saban said. “There is still a lot for this team to play for, and a lot for them to set their mind to and recommit themselves to.”

Immediately after exiting the locker room, the players seem to buy Saban’s way of thinking.

“Losing this game, it feels like somebody died,” Alabama center Barrett Jones said, “but the season isn’t over. We still have a chance to play for the SEC championship.”

As for the national title race, a loss this late in the year likely will put Alabama out of the hunt for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Only three more weeks remain in the season, and when the updated BCS standings are released later today, the Crimson Tide will drop out of the No. 1 spot.

But Saban isn’t giving up on a national championship, either.

“Two of the three national championship teams that I’ve coached both lost a game,” said Saban, referring to his 2003 LSU squad and last year’s Alabama team.

For today, however, Saban is working to get his players to recover from its first loss of the year, which also was only the fifth in four seasons.

“Our players will recommit themselves and do the things that they need to do to in order to finish the season the right way, and hopefully have an opportunity to accomplish something of significance with this particular team,” he said.

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